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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

When the Embargo is Away the Crafter Will... You Know

With a little luck I was able to have the Craft Supply Embargo lifted a week early, which made me a very happy little crafter. I've been drooling over so many new projects for so long that when I was first able to buy materials again, I was in shock. Something tells me it was a similar reaction to the one you get when you deny someone chocolate for months and then let them run wild at Wonka's factory... (and cue day dream of chocolate rivers.)

Back to the crafting!

With Yule only 4 months away and classes starting in a month, I resigned myself to absolutely no free time without some sort of needle, hook, glue gun, or paintbrush in my hand. Keep in mind, I'm not complaining. In fact, that sounds like a roaring good time to me! I had begun researching project materials well before the embargo lifted and now I am pleased to share my findings as well as my game plan. After all, there is no way I'm knocking out some 2 dozen projects in four months without a game plan!

Part the First: Gathering Supplies

There are about 22 knitting projects left on my Yule list and at least four non-Yule projects that I want to get done before the end of the year. That is a whole lot of yarn and a whole lot of knitting. In preparation for said yarn purchases, I began looking up the suggested yarn for each project and then finding a cheaper alternative. In the case of 7 projects, I was able to find a cheaper yarn with the same properties as the suggested yarn and the substitute yarn often had higher reviews. Pretty sweet eh?

After locating the best yarn options for my projects I started looking at sales fliers and e-mailed coupons, hoping to find useful items among the sales. When the shock of being able to buy materials again wore off, DH and I made a trip to Michaels for some new bamboo DPN and a crochet hook, snagging a ball of red Patons while we were there. Michaels, being the lovely place that it is, gives a rather large coupon to customers with each purchase and over two days we gathered two such coupons, each of which becomes active this weekend.

You can bet that I will be at Michaels this weekend, coupon in hand, getting more supplies for my lovely little Yule gifts. Since not all the gifts are knit there are a lot of supplies to be had. The more I plan ahead the more money I can save.

Part the Second: Project Pecking Order

Now for the fun part: putting the projects in order! I've already got a little bit of a jump on this, thanks to my Ravelry queue. For the sake of beauty I'll be adding a picture to the name of each project, so all my lovely readers will be able to decide if the project is something they'd like to do as well. And as I finish each project I will post a review and tips . NOTE: All pictures are courtesy of the project or tutorial pages linked in the project name.

Yule 2011 Line Up
1.Elf Shoes for Nephew X - Instead of the red and green featured in the photo, I'm making them red with white cuff. I've already gotten started on these and hope to have them done within the next week since they knit up pretty quickly.

2. Werewolf Hat for Sister A - My little sister LOVES wolves and I am all about encouraging love of nature. So when I found this adorable hat I just had to make it for her.

3. Paw Warmers for Sister A - These fingerless gloves will go perfectly with the hat above, especially when made with same-colored yarn. I've never done Duplicate Stitching, so I get to learn something new with this project!

4. Fairy Furniture for Gma M - My grandmother makes the cutest little fairy houses for special events in our family. So when I found a tutorial on making fairy furniture it seemed like a match made in heaven. This project is fourth on my list because the trees haven't started shedding their leaves and branches yet. You'll find me at a local park in a month or so, picking up branches and pruning them down to size!

5-9.  Personalized Bags for all The Little Nieces - I made four of these bags for my bridesmaids and they were an absolute hit. I mentioned in my last post on Yule gifts there were two other bags that we used as practice runs. With a little handy work those two bags will make up two of the five bags I now have to complete for Yule. Each bag is personalized to the girl receiving it and they're always a favorite.

10-12.  Spa Kits for all the SILs - I don't have a tutorial link or picture for these photos. I've knit a few Flower Power wash cloths and will be putting them in nice baskets with soaps, bubble baths, soothing mixed CDs, floating candles, lotion, and chocolate. All my SILs are busy women so they'll deserve their spa night in!

13-19.  Family Tree Apple Ornaments for Mom-K - By embroidering the names of my immediate family on the sides of these apple ornaments, I will turn whatever tree they hang on in to a family tree. With one for both parents, each sibling, and my DH it is quite an undertaking!

20/21. Men's Fingerless Gloves - I'm scheduled to make two pair, one for my brother J and my BIL W. Knit in black they are very versatile and will make a great addition to their standard winter gear.

22-24. Goddess for All Seasons with Case for Friends - I've already knocked out two of the five goddesses I need to crochet. Thankfully they work up pretty quickly and DH is painting the cases so they're almost all done!

25/26. Coffee Cup Pincushion/ Tape Measure Cozy for Mom - My mom is an avid knitter as well as a coffee addict so these little gems are going in a gift basket along with some of her favorite coffee, candies, and a nice book to go along with it all.

27. Monaco Driving Scarf for MIL-L - My MIL loves cruises but always complains that her very long hair blows around too much. This driving scarf, inspired by old Hollywood glamour, seems to be just the thing to solve her problems.

28. Wheel of the Year Skirt for Pagan Student Association Advisor - Again, no link or picture since this wonderful project comes from the Anticraft book with errata on their blog. I made a variation for Samhain last year and will be making one for our wonderful advisor this year.

Talk about the Winter Olympics! I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be able to outdo myself next year! What makes this even more astounding is that there are a few gifts I didn't list on here since I know their recipients read this blog. (Hi guys!) So wish me luck dear readers, because my wrists and eyes are going to need it!

My next post will be a sister post to this one, featuring pictures of the projects I've already finished as well as a few non-Yule projects I've got in the works.

Until next time, Blessed Be.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Local Pagan Study Group's First Informational Meeting (Or, a Lesson on Pagan Morality as I See It)

Technically today was our fourth meeting but the first three were meet and greets, making today our first informational meeting. We discussed the similarities and differences between our religious paths, because "Pagan" is a term that covers a myriad of belief systems.  More specifically we discussed the concept of the Divine as well as the root of Pagan morality.

Unlike followers of the Abrahamic religions, Pagan practitioners do not have a single text or collection of ancient texts to guide our moral compass. Instead we take our morals from the tales of the gods and what they found objectionable. We also take our cues from society at large as well as the belief that everything in nature is sacred and that when we take from the planet we must give back. In this way we arrive at different moral conclusions than Abrahamic practitioners.

An excellent example of this is the current debate around homosexuality and whether or not homosexuals should be "given" the right to marry. There are several passages in the bible (Leviticus 18:22, etc.) that condemn those that practice homosexuality and through the use of these verses many anti-homosexuals support their position on the matter. Most Pagans look at the situation from the position of "is this hurting anyone"? Being homosexual is no more or less harmful to a person than being heterosexual and neither sexual persuasion indicates whether someone is a good or bad person. Therefore there is no reason why homosexuals should be barred from marriage. Let them eat wedding cake!
(Fun bit of trivia: Marie Antoinette never actually said "let them eat cake". Now back to the morality lecture)

Morality is a tricky subject in general and it becomes even more complicated when you're moving from one religion to another or conversing with someone of a different belief system. Speaking from experience, I have found it very hard to shake some of the strict Christian morals that I was brought up with, such as the sanctity of monogamy and the shamefulness of sex and related topics. Neither of these things is required of humans, it was simply how I was raised. I do not want to say that they are bad or good, only that they are one way of seeing things and as a Pagan I am always willing to question the way things are and learn from the answers I find.

In addition to morality we also discussed how we each view the Divine. We went from member to member allowing them to describe how they view the Divine, which most Pagans see as being divided in to a god and a goddess which are equal to one another. Most of the group, this blogger included, agreed that we see the Divine as something greater than we can understand. Because of this humans have assigned pantheons, names, genders, and attributes to the feeling that they label as Divine, so that they may better relate to it. And this leads us right back to morality and the judgement of others. I feel that no religion is wrong in how they view the Divine, whether it is a monotheistic or polytheistic approach and regardless of what that/those god(s)/goddess(es) appear as. Religions go wrong when they begin to force others to see things their way or use the tenets of their belief to harm living beings.

Many people do not share these views and when I first became Pagan I gave little thought to how my new understanding of the Divine and morality should affect my treatment of others. Because I was raised in an environment that did not tolerate other religions well I became intolerant of people who were not Pagan. It took me years of learning and reflecting to reach a point where I wasn't angry with the religions who preached that my religion was false and dangerous. But once I reached a place where I could see more clearly, I realized that it is not my place to judge. Humans fear what they do not know and the common phrase "be the change you wish to see in the world" is the best way I have found to handle the issue.
(Another interesting fact: There is a great deal of debate over whether or not Gandhi actually said that. I recommend Googling it if you're curious.)

I didn't intend to make this a lecture on morality, but it seemed to have ended up that way. Hopefully it clarified things for those with questions and prompted all my readers to think on their own morality. After all, morality in all its splendor is at the center of what we call humanity.

My next post won't be for a while because classes are starting but I'm sure I'll have something fun for you when I return!

Blessed Be

Friday, July 22, 2011

Yule Gifts in August

At the beginning of the summer I set the lofty goal of having at least half my Yule gifts done by the end of the summer. A wedding, a move, and a craft supply embargo hampered my productivity and I am sad to report that I am nowhere near half way done with my Yule projects.  I also regret to inform my dear readers that I have no pictures for you today either. This is mostly a refresh on the items on my To Do list as well as a checklist of what I've gotten done. Everything done will be highlighted.

Mom - Coffee Cup pincushion, Caribou coffee gift basket, Goddess for All Seasons, Case for Goddess and accessories that doubles as a stand
Stepmom - 7 Garter Stitch Apple Ornaments,
Dad - Star Wars scarf (still have to design in)
MIL L - Monaco Driving Scarf
FIL D - ???
FIL G. - ???
MIL J - ???
DH - Dalek Socks, Robert Asprin Books
Sister An - Wolf ear hat, Wolf paw gloves
Brother D -???
Brother Ju -  Men's Fingerless gloves
SIL M - Cookies, ???
BIL H - ???
Niece R - Personalized bag full of crafts and books, clothes
Niece I - Personalized bag full of crafts and books, clothes
Nephew C - Crocheted Worm (DH's idea lol)
BIL R -  Doctor Who Scarf, Cookies
Niece H - Three Day's Grace Tote Bag full of art supplies and craft kits
Nephew Dm - ???
BIL Wr - Men’s Fingerless Glove
SIL M- Spa kit (soap, wash rags, candles, candy)
SIL S - Spa kit (soap, wash rags, candles, candy)
BIL C - ???
Nephew J - ???
Niece B - Personalized bag full of crafts and books
Niece Sab - Personalized bag full of crafts and books
Niece Sav -Personalized bag full of crafts and books
Nephew X- Converse Booties, Elf Feets, Proudfeet
Grandma M - Fairy Furniture
Grandpa J - Chugga Chugga Scarf
Nana - ???
Papa - ???
Grandma S - Goddess for All Seasons, Case for Goddess and accessories that doubles as a stand
Lizzy - Goddess for All Seasons, Case for goddess and accessories that doubles as a stand
Corie - Book of Shadows, Religious texts, religious tools, Goddess for All Seasons, Case for Goddess and accessories that doubles as a stand
Cat - Goddess for All Seasons, Case for Goddess and accessories that doubles as a stand
Carrie - Wheel of the Year Skirt
Joe - ???
Ana - Framed photo of PSA with signatures on matting, Wheel of the Year skirt

It's almost August and I've only got three gifts made. If I don't step things up soon I am going to be in big trouble! Thankfully I'm almost done with my second Goddess for All Seasons. Technically she is the fourth one I've made but two of the three originals were frogged because they turned out poorly. Now that I've got the pattern down I'm getting the dolls done much faster. This weekend I plan to finish as least two Goddesses and two of the personalized bags. Since I'm still under the Crafty Supply Embargo of 2011 I can't go out and buy new materials so I am left working with what I've got. Thankfully, that's quite a bit.

For our wedding I made hand-painted bags for all the bridesmaids. Two bags were sacrificed as practice runs because they didn't turn out as well as I had hoped. My nieces saw them and loved them however, so I am going to do a bit of personalizing for each and use those as their personalized bags this year. I've also got enough yarn to make at least four more Goddess dolls which will definitely see me through until August. As soon as the embargo lifts, however, you bet I will be at that craft store grabbing the rest of what I need!

Tomorrow's post will be on the first educational meeting of the local Pagan Study Group.

Blessed Be!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lunasa: The First Harvest

For those of us of the Pagan persuasion Lunasa (also known as Lammas as well as seven or eight other variations) is drawing closer. Falling on July 31st or August 1st it is the first of the three harvest festivals: Lunasa, Mabon, and Samhain. Lunasa is the first harvest when grains and the other first crops are brought in from the fields. There are several traditions surrounding the harvesting of these crops and they vary depending on which tradition you follow. Most of the world harvests corn in the beginning of August (though American growers harvest their crops in October) and those that follow traditional practices often leave the last corn stalk standing. Some cultures believed it was an offering to the Few and other supernatural creatures while the Native Americans left it standing so that Corn Grandmother would have a home in the fields. Other cultures bury the last stalk to ensure a productive harvest the following year.

As we celebrate the fruits of the first harvest we must also nurture the Goddess, who is still pregnant with the fruits of the harvests to come. We also honor the Holly King as he is the Goddess' consort until the Oak King rises again at Yule to take his place by the Goddess' side. The Holly King is representative of resting, withdrawal, and self reflection all of which become more common as winter draws closer and the general pace of life slows for the darker seasons. For this reason Lunasa is an excellent time to begin any self reflection work you've been considering as well as beginning preparations for winter.

In celebration of the first harvest and the approaching autumn (my favorite season!) I've been planning a lovely Lunasa party for the last Friday of July. Traditional foods of the Sabbat are corn, wheat, and pig products as well as berries and honey. Keeping this in mind I set up a Facebook event and invited several friends over to my place for a picnic, promising to provide a few essentials:
  • Pulled Pork in BBQ sauce (which lets me try out my new slow cooker)
  • Lunasa Loaves (Recipe at bottom of post)
  • Lemonade (featuring a few berry flavors)
  • Corn Bread
The lemonade was purchased from a local grocery chain and the corn bread is the Jiffy box brand. Normally I'm a fan of making my own baked goods but Jiffy makes a decent cornbread and it saved me from having to try my hand at three new recipes in one day. Even we obsessed cooks have our limits! I am going to share the recipes for the pulled pork and the Lunasa Loaves but with one disclaimer: I haven't tried these recipes yet so I have no idea of how they'll turn out. Let me know if you try them before July 29th!

Pulled Pork in BBQ Sauce (Slow Cooker Style; From All Recipes website) - Serves 10
2.5 lbs Pork Tenderloin
15 fluid ounces Root Beer
22 ounces of your favorite BBQ sauce
Burger Buns

Put the tenderloin in the slow cooker and pour root beer over the top. Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours or until pork shreds easily. Drain out the root beer and shred the pork then pour BBQ sauce on top. Heat and serve on the buns.

Lunasa Loaves (From the 2001 Witches' Datebook; Llewellyn Worldwide)
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 oz active dry yeast
3 tablespoons honey
2 1/2 cup bread flour
1/2 cup cracked wheat (I'm substituting wheat berries that I crush with my mortar and pestle)
1 teaspoon salt
2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Additional melted butter for topping

In large bowl mix warm water, dry yeast, and 1 tablespoon of honey. Wait a minute then stir in 2 1/2 cups bread flour. Let sit a half-hour or until foamy. In a small bowl, soak cracked wheat in 1 cup cold water for 5 minutes. Add salt, whole wheat flour, 2 tablespoons honey, and melted butter to yeast mix. Drain cracked wheat and stir in. Turn on to floured surface and knead with whole wheat flour until barely elastic (about 10 minutes). Coat a large bowl with cooking spray. Place dough in bowl  and turn once to coat. Cover with damp towel; let rise until doubled. Punch down and divide in to two greased loaf pans. Allow to rise just over top of pans. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes. With pastry brush and melted butter paint crust with magical symbols such as a Sun, runes, ogham, etc.

I've already got several updates on what my guests are bringing so we're sure to have delicious food. One can not have a Sabbat on food alone, however. In the spirit of the holiday we will be making witch bottles for protection during the coming winter, discussing ways in which we're preparing for the harsh weather our area dishes out during the winter months, and doing some focused meditation. For the curious, a witch bottle is a glass bottle in which you place three pins, three needles, and three nails then top with vinegar and any protective herbs you wish. Top with a cork sealed in place with a wax seal and bury next to the entrance of your home. There are nastier variations of this home protection spell but they're not really my cup of... tea and so these are the witch bottles we'll be making.

It is my hope that those of you who are celebrating this Sabbat along with me found this post informative and perhaps a bit inspirational. As a solitary practitioner I know how hard it is to put something together for a Sabbat.

With summer drawing to a close there isn't much time for me to finish all those Yule gifts, which will be the subject of my next post. Until then, Blessed Be!


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

New Exercises and a New Attitude

I first learned about boxing to lose weight through one of Jillian Michaels' DVDs. Punching, kicking, and the various movements that go in to boxing make for a great cardio workout at home when you can't get to the gym. A great variation on this idea is the practice of punching while holding light weights, usually only 1 or 2 pounds though I use 5 pound weights. Your arms get tired much faster because they are being toned as you engage your core to throw the punch. Squatting while punching engages your legs as well, ramping up your heart rate and giving most of your body a work out.
Boxers use this method as seen in this article and others linked to it. I'm not a boxer but my arms are toning up nicely and I certainly feel the crunch in my abs when I am throwing the punches. I use a psuedo-plyometric method to keep my heart rate from spiking too high while working up a good sweat and giving myself a workout. I set my iPod to my workout playlist and stretch for the first few songs, then pick up my weights and begin jogging in place with a weight in each hand until the first song reaches its chorus or high point. It us during these high points that I begin punching, squatting down and keeping rhythm with the song. When the chorus is over I begin jogging again, switching between holding the weights on my hips, at my sides, and above my head in a military press. This pattern is repeated for three or four songs, though I will take a little rest or slow jog if my chest begins to hurt or my throat feels tight. After three or four songs of this I will put the weights down and jog in place, cooling down over the last song. I then stretch again and begin my weight lifting and floor work.
Another key to this exercise system is keeping water on hand. This workout, if done with intent, will really make a person sweat so replacing those fluids is important. A low calorie sports drink is a good idea if you're worried about electrolytes, but you won't need a full calorie one. You'll end up drinking in more calories than you burn! If you complete this exercise you've given your legs, core, and cardio system a good work out.

Nice!Now on to the floor work. I've recently started working with my exercise ball again, doing ball passes*. This exercise consists of lying on your back with your arms on the floor above your head and your legs straight out. With the ball in your hands and your back staying on the floor, bring your arms in an arc over your head as you raise your legs up. They should meet over your midriff. Pass the ball from your hands to your feet and lower them again. Repeat this motion, passing the ball back in to your hands and lowering your limbs. That is a one count. I do twelve of these at a time then move on to another exercise.
Another favorite of mine is a variation on the crunch: Lye on your back with your feet spread slightly apart. As you engage your abs (very important!) and come up in a crunch, cross your right ankle over your left keeping your right foot hovering slightly over your left. Come back down and uncross your ankles. Come up in a crunch again, this time moving your feet left over right. Come back down. That is one rep. Your crunches should be shallow since this exercise works the smaller muscles around your abs. Do fifteen to twenty of these and then move on to something else.
At this point in my workout I move on to standard crunches, push ups, squats, lunges, and various arm exercises using five to ten pound weights. I then finish up with another round of cardio and plenty of water sipped slowly so I don't upset my stomach.
The hardest part of working out this hard is that I used to be of the mind it gave me license to eat all the junk I wanted and that is simply not true. Scientists have recently provided evidence that exercise is actually an appetite suppressant, though I don't have any articles of journals to provide as reading on this. Scientific findings aside, I know that cookies start to look less sinful after a hard workout, but I try and make sure I eat a salad and some protein first. After that if I'm still hungry, that cookie is all mine!
My next post will be moving away from the realm of exercise and focusing on the Lunasa celebration I am planning for the last weekend of July.
NOTE: I am not a fitness or health professional. All tips and suggestions are my opinion via personal experience and research. They are not meant as a substitute for medical advice. Please consult a doctor before beginning any exercise program. 

My Baby Steps for a Killer Body

For those who read my blog regularly, I'm sorry for the recent silence. Off-line life got a little crazy but things are back under control now!
Today I'll be posting an update on my exercise progress, including information on some new exercises I've been trying.
Over the course of the last year I've been working towards losing pounds I gained while on a break from school. In three months I packed on 40 pounds and have yet to drop any of it. In fact, I'm now 45 pounds heavier than I have ever been before. Weight, however, can be misleading. The exercises I was using toned my arms and legs, leaving me with quite a lot of muscle mass. I know this is the case because I can still wear clothing that fit when I weighed less than I do now. For clarification here are some hard numbers: NOTE: I am not a fitness or health professional. All tips and suggestions are my personal opinion via personal experience and are not meant as a substitute for medical advice.
  • 140-145 = The weight I was at most of my life, from sixth grade to my Junior year of college. This means I was rather slender, since I measure in at 5'9".
  • 180 = The weight I was when I decided I needed to get back to 145 and stop being unhealthy. Weight issues run in my family so I knew I needed to nip this problem before it really got going
  • 190 = Current weight. Most of the 10 pounds between this weight and the one above it are muscle mass, as indicated by the minimal fat on my legs and arms as well as the clothes that are looser now than when I weight 180.
Since my waistline is not expanding I've been doing something right. Here's what I've been doing over the last year and half:
  • Eating off smaller plates so I can keep a closer eye on my portions
  • Not eating after midnight unless my schedule is funky and that's the "middle" of my "day"
  • Walking instead of taking the bus to certain local locations
  • Giving up most fast food
  • Exercising sporadically but intensely
  • Eating heavier lunches and lighter suppers. (This is very effective because I am more active during the middle of the day than I am later in the evening so I schedule my calories accordingly. Other lifestyles may not find this idea useful)
Written out it seems like a lot but it's really not much. To lose the belly I've gained in the last few years I will have to step up my game and really make some changes. I've got a pretty good idea of where to start and I've already put many of the steps in to action. Since I seem to like lists a lot today, here is a list of the new changes I am making as well as explanations for why I am making them:
  • Giving up soda (mostly). Once in a while I will indulge in a soda but I mostly stick to fruit juices, milk, tea, and water. Especially water...
  • Drinking more water! "Water Weight" is excess water that your body holds on to because it is dehydrated. Salty foods and extreme temperatures can do this to you and the best remedy is to drink enough water. Since the "8 glasses a day" rule has been debunked the best advice is this: Drink water until you don't feel thirsty. And when you feel like a snack, sip some water first. Thirst and hunger feel similar and can often be confused for one another. Drinking water first may save you some unnecessary calories.
  • Increasing my cardio quota. Since I usually do twenty minutes of cardio three times a week (and almost nothing else) I'm really just maintaining my current weight. Sadly, I despise most cardio (running, biking, etc). Our new apartment complex has a pool that opens rather early, so that helps, and I've come across some excellent at-home cardio exercises that even I can do.
  • Use the little tips, like sitting on an exercise ball instead of the couch and standing at work whenever possible. I've been talking about these steps for a long time now but I rarely use them. Since every little bit helps, I'm going to start taking my own advice.
  • Diversify my workout. The human body adapts to things very quickly, learning the best way to do something without losing a lot of energy in the process. Because, despite our highly evolved minds, our bodies still function under the rule of survival which means we need fat because fat is energy. By doing a wide variety of exercises and pushing myself harder when things start to feel easy, I can get past my body's fail safes and burn off the fat that it is storing.
  • Eat fewer empty calories. Depriving yourself of things will only make cravings stronger, but exercising caution when eating sweets is usually wise. A great example is the snack I usually go for around 3 or 4 in the afternoon. Instead of reaching for a doughnut, cookie, or toasted bagel I've been going for a small salad, bowl of miso soup, carrot sticks, or piece of fruit instead. It fills me up just as well as the bread products, can satisfy a sugar craving, and all of them are healthier than bread products!

 Wow, this post is longer than I intended it to be! As you can see, I've got quite a bit of work ahead of me. Eventually it will all become second nature and I won't even have to think about it. Until then I have to remember that if I want the results I have to do the work, which isn't too bad since I've never be afraid of working hard.
In my next post I will detail the new exercises I've started using and explain why they are awesome.
NOTE: I am not a fitness or health professional. All tips and suggestions are my opinion via personal experience and research. They are not meant as a substitute for medical advice. Please consult a doctor before beginning any exercise program.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Bugs Fixed and Booties Knit

After a little digital file shuffling I've got the picture of the baby booties available. Finally!

Seems rather anti-climactic, huh?

Now that I have the picture I can go in to the details of these lovely little booties. The One of the left of the photo is the one that I knit up last year while the one on the right is the one I finished a few days ago. As you can see there are a few minor differences in the striping of the booties and that is because I accidentally used two different patterns. On this pattern's Ravelry page there are two links, one of which is the standard "This pattern is available for free" link and the other is a secondary pattern provided by another user. I prefer the altered pattern because I think it more closely resembles real Chuck Taylors. The second pattern also provides easily noticeable eye-holes for lacing these little cuties on to the feet of your favorite little cutie.

The upside to this project is that it knits up quickly. If you sit down with the materials and put in The Matrix you will have both booties knit up before the end. Now for the downsides, of which there are two. The first is that, despite their size, these booties are not a very portable project. You're working with two colors of yarn and two needle sizes as well as a stitch holder. Unless you've got some awesome needle covers to prevent stitches from slipping, the potential for damage is too high for my taste. The other downside is that there are a million little ends to weave in. Of course that portion of finishing the project is highly portable,
 as is the materials needed to sew the seams up.

All in all I give the pattern 3 stars and put it on my "Meh, it's okay" list of projects. If I could find a pattern to knit these in a single piece or with fewer ends to weave in I would be happier with it.

My next post will be an update on my exercise efforts as well as my recent goal of meeting 4 weight-loss goals every day for a week.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Delayed Posts and Technical Difficulties

I know I promised a post on the Converse Baby Booties I recently knit up but my e-mail is malfunctioning and that is where I store all my photos. Until I can get home and take some more to store elsewhere the Baby Booty post has to be tabled. Hopefully it will be up (with pictures!) very soon

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Exercise Update and Post #3

I didn't intend to post three times today but DH and I had a long talk about exercise and weight loss when I got home from work and I think that posting about it will help me gain clarity and strengthen my resolve. After all, posting usually does.

Over the last year and a half I have tried in vain to lose 40 pounds. According to an older post I imported from a now-defunct blog, I weighed 182  pounds in January of this year. It is now July and I weigh 193. My waist is only slightly larger than it was (40 inches instead of 39) and my clothes fit the same so I can only assume that my weight gain has come from a mixture of water weight, a little bit of actual fat, and muscle. This is further supported by the evidence of my currently swollen fingers (courtesy of water retention since the swelling comes and goes) and our recent discovery that I can lift things much heavier than I had thought possible for me.

Despite this "proof" that I am not gaining weight from fat alone, I am become discouraged. Obesity runs on one side of my family and blood sugar issues run on the other, making me a high risk for both. Add those facts to my sedentary lifestyle and our love of good food and you can see why I gained 45 pounds since moving in with DH.

This brings me back to the conversation DH and I recently had. He told me that if I wanted to lose the weight and start seeing results, we needed to push ourselves harder. We go to the gym a few times a week but that is about all we do. And if I start to feel like crap while at said gym we find excuses to go home. All that has got to stop. If I feel like crap at the gym then I need to take a second to rest and get right back on that machine or start doing those push ups again. And when we're home we can't just sit on our behinds. There are a few things a person can do to increase the number of calories they burn without giving up all stationary hobbies, of which I have quite a few.

The first thing is to buy a large exercise ball and sit on that when watching TV, sitting at the computer, or doing anything else that requires them to sit. Reducing the length of time spent sitting is another good idea, whether a person gets up and does something in another room for a while or they stand and watch TV from one commercial break to another

In addition to burning calories we have to reduce the number of calories we eat. Smaller plates help make small portions look bigger. To help the illusion we're going to move our larger plates to a rarely used cabinet and only use the smaller plates. This technique falls in to my "sometimes a gimmick can work" category. You have to make yourself believe it, but it will have results. Just like a placebo that you know is in affect, you just don't care.

And finally we're going to stick to our promises. This morning we skipped the gym because I didn't want to go, making up for it with the promise of doing exercises at home when I got off work. We've made these kinds of promises before but usually break them, citing that I've just eaten or we have too much housework to do. Tonight we stuck by the promise and went even further by not stopping when we got a little tired or I felt lightheaded. We would take a minute to rest and then jump right back in until we could literally do no more. And then we did just a little bit more.

As a general disclaimer I am not a health professional and make no claims that I can dispense medical advice. I am a young woman who is trying to find what works for her, so take my advice with a grain of salt if you feel the need to take it at all.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

And I Thought I'd Never Plan Another Party...

After spending the last year and a half planning our wedding, I thought I would never plan another party again. Boy was I wrong! DH and I moved to a new apartment less than two months after getting married, which leaves me with another party to plan. Housewarmings have never gone over well with our friends and family, garnering minimal attendance and leaving us with massive amounts of uneaten food. This time seems to be different since people keep asking us when the party is and the questions started well before we even moved! So despite my reluctance to take up the mantel of party planner once again, I began to make plans. It was during this pre-planning stage that I remembered my promise to DH to give him a "second birthday" since his is close to a major holiday and is often overlooked. And with that flash of insight I began to plan my first double party.

Given the size of our respective families and the number of friends we know would like to join us, we're going to end up hosting a split party in which the older family members will be invited for an early dinner or late lunch and the friends or younger family members will be invited to stay later and have a slightly more "raucous" party. I've seen this model at work time and again, and it never fails to please all the guests.

But knowing the form your party will take is only half the battle. For a while I had no idea of what to serve, what theme to use, or how to mesh together a birthday and a housewarming party. Thankfully inspiration struck once again, this time in the form of cupcake papers.
Purchased at separate times, these cupcake papers provided the catalyst needed to fill in the details of this party. Anyone who has attended a potluck party with me can tell you that I usually bring two things: River Dip and cupcakes. I will give a recipe for River Dip at the end of the post, because the important thing here is the cupcakes. Almost always made from scratch and usually boasting unusual flavors such as chocolate raspberry and margarita lime, my cupcakes are voted the best by most people who try them. And it's not just the cupcakes that are homemade; I've become a whiz at cream cheese frosting over the last year or so.

Knowing that, it shouldn't surprise you that cupcakes became the focus around which I built the details of my party planning. Using construction paper left over from our wedding I'm going to make double-sided cards, one side of which is flowery and feminine (the housewarming) and the other will be more masculine (DH's birthday). A cupcake stamp purchased on sale from Michael's a few months back will serve to dress up napkins left over from the reception as well as the housewarming side of the cards. Instead of a cake we will have two collections of cupcakes, each topped with letters spelling out what they're celebrating. Decorations will be flowers and pictures of DH and I, particularly the ones used as the guest book at our reception.

The one detail I haven't worked out is food. I've never hosted a food-based party before other than my wedding, preferring either potluck style or appetizer buffets. DH will have the final say in what food we make and I have a feeling that the bread maker and slow cooker we got as wedding gifts are going to be getting a lot of use. I might even be able to convince him we need a little grill on the back patio for brats and burgers!

As always, posting these ideas has helped to generate new ones and I can only hope that I have helped to inspire someone else in turn.

And now for that recipe:
River Dip
1 box cream cheese
1 jar salsa
1 bag of corn chips

Place the block of cream cheese on a medium sized plate and pour as much salsa over the top as you like. Serve with chips and enjoy!

Thursday's post will be on the baby booties I've knit up for a friend of mine as well as the antiquated practice of creating a Hope Chest that has become a small obsession of mine in recent years.

Craft Supply Embargo 101

Yesterday I mentioned that I have been placed under a Craft Supply Embargo by an agreement with DH. Since I have a lot of craft related hobbies, all of which require some specialty tool or another, I often spend quite a bit of money on craft supplies. Clearance aisles and thrift stores are my best friends of course, but sometimes there is nothing else to do but spend a large chunk of money on supplies. Our recent wedding and relocation has left us with a rather tight budget and out of necessity DH and I agreed that I would go the entire month of July without purchasing any sort of craft supply, with only a few exceptions. Paint for my DIY projects was allowed because those had to be completed before we could finish unpacking, but that was it.

So where does that leave me, you might ask? It leaves me digging through my drawers of craft supplies and boxes of stashed yarn to find my next crafty fix. Without the option of starting an entirely new project I find myself returning to Unfinished Objects (UFOs for my Ravelry readers) and digging out projects I meant to do years ago and then forgot all about. That is part of the reason my infamous "UFO Bag" was finally completed and why I have been working my behind off to finish "The Train Job" scarf.

And now that both are complete I have been at a loss on what to craft next. I could finish the Star Wars chart for my dad's scarf but that is going to take more patience than I have at the moment. Or I could put off crafting for a week or so.... but then I would go crazy and that is a bad thing. The project I ultimately landed on was the mate to the "Converse Baby Booty" I made last year. A friend of mine is pregnant and I want to give them to her, among a few other things, as a baby shower gift. And so out comes the lime green cotton yarn and the dreaded size 4 needles. Hopefully this one will go a little faster than the first!

Since this seems to be the week of double posts, later today I will post about the housewarming/ birthday party I am planning for DH.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Showing the Garden... err... Back Porch a Little Love

Hands down my favorite part of our new apartment is the outdoor access and ability to actually grow something! Our last apartment could only be accessed through a hall in the middle of a building, which was great in avoiding drafts during winter but sucked whenever the weather was nice and we wanted to go outside. And being Pagan I have always had an affinity for growing things, which I simply could not have in our old place.

Thankfully that is all behind us now and I celebrated by spending a good part of my afternoon listening to the audio book of  "Don't Know Much About Mythology" by Kenneth C Davis on my iPhone and weeding the flowerbed next to our back porch. Boy what a difference that hour or so made!



Since all the soil in the flowerbed is hard-packed we have a bit of an earwig problem and I really really really hate earwigs. Unfortunately I can't find the gardening tools a friend gave me (thank you Move-In chaos!) but as soon as I do you can bet that I will be hand-tilling the soil. Sadly I won't be able to plant anything right away because it is so late in the year, but that isn't going to stop me from starting some seedlings inside and keeping the ground prepped for next season. I can taste those fresh herbs already!

Tomorrow I'll be going over the reasons and results of my current Craft Supply Embargo as well as introducing the next knitting project to grace my needles.

And a Post for All My Stitches... (Weaving in Ends)

It's been quite a while since my last knitting-related post. With so much going on I haven't had much knitting news to report. Today is different and I can not say how happy I am to report that my first piece of double knitting is complete! The Train Job scarf wrapped up it's time on my needles earlier this afternoon and it is about time! Intended as a gift for my grandfather this Yule, I can not wait to see his face when he finally sees the scarf.

 The Finished Product!

In my Ravelry notes for this project I mentioned that I have an odd way of weaving in ends. My method consists of getting the ends down to a manageable size and then untwisting the yarn to its individual strands and weaving the strands into the stitches of my knit item. Since the written description isn't very clear, I decided to take pictures as I wove in the ends on my Train Job Scarf and post them here.

My Method of Weaving in Ends
Step 1: Get all the ends down to a manageable length.
In this photo you can see that the yarn in my hand is very long. Since this example is on a double-knit piece I wove it in between the pieces of fabric, looping it around the backs of stitches to secure it while hiding the fact that it is there at all.

Step 2: Untwist the yarn in to separate strands
This is what a 3-ply yarn will look like when unspun. Because yarn is meant to stay twisted you will have to hold on to the separate strands until you can isolate one and get it on your needle.

Step 3: Weave the strands into the stitches of the knit material.

In this photo the needle is in between the strands of a knit stitch and a strand from the loose end is threaded through the eye. Because I like to use the "split method" on short ends, I often have to thread the needle after I have slipped it part way through he stitch I am using to anchor my end. Continue doing this until the end is very short. Cut the remaining yarn from the end and stretch fabric a little to make sure the end is inside the knit project.

Repeat this step until there are no ends left and enjoy your completed project!

A second post is slated for today, one regarding my first bit of DIY gardening since moving out on my own. Let's just say I got a bit of a work out!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The DIY in my Home

As promised, here is an update on those mirrors I mentioned last week as well as a look at my next big DIY project.

For those who don't remember what our mirrors started out as, here is a little reminder:
I didn't want to work on the mirrors until we had moved in to our new apartment. Our move date was the middle of last week and as soon as the last box was in I wasted no time in getting started. While DH rested from a long day of hauling heavy furniture I dug out the gallon of Valspar exterior semi-gloss I had purchased that morning. Armed with paint brushes and assisted by a friend I got to painting. A few days and several coats later the change was remarkable:
Absolutely gorgeous! All these beauties need now is to have their tags removed and their nails hung and we will be in business!

In addition to the mirrors I also finished a bookshelf that I had been holding on to, as I mentioned in yesterday's post. I will admit that I was rather nervous about altering a piece of furniture, but since the bookshelf was picked up from Salvation Army for less that $5, I figured it was worth a shot. Boy did my gamble pay off! With the success of the bookshelf and mirrors under my belt I feel confident in my ability to spruce up old furniture. And with that in mind I set my sights on the dresser DH brought with him in to the marriage.

This relic of the 1960's is still in great shape, but it's form leaves something to be desired, particularly with my decorating style. So I took to the web, searching for DIY Dresser Makeovers. I struck gold almost instantly.
Photo Courtesy of GetEmGirls

How gorgeous is this dresser? Inspired by an amazing DIY job I came up with a plan of action for my dresser.

1. Remove the handles on the front and sand down any residual glue. The handles are screwed in from the back and glued in the front to ensure they don't come off. Well, they're about to come off all the same.
2. Once the drawers are smooth I will prime and paint the whole thing, inside and out. Once dry I will use a sealant to increase the shine factor and prevent the paint from scratching off.
3. In a contrast color I will paint details on the front of the drawers. I'm torn between simple accent rectangles similar to those on the dresser above and curly designs reminiscent of iron scroll work. i guess it all depends on whether or not I can get stencils.
4. On to the hardware! I would love to change out the feet on the dresser for something like those on the sample dresser, but I may not be able to find the hardware. I have had luck with the drawer pulls however. I am in love with these knobs from Anthropologie, but at $12 a piece my hardware cost would be $192 which is more than a little over budget. I've got loads of time to find the right knobs though, so the hunt is on for cheaper hardware that is just as beautiful!
5. As a final touch I am going to line the drawers with damask print shelf paper. I've found a beautiful print at Chic Shelf Paper and I can't wait to put in my order.

As I'm sure you can tell I am very excited about this project. Unfortunately it will have to wait until later this summer because I made a promise to DH that I would not do any projects that I had to buy materials for, in an effort to trim down our spending. So far it has been working out well (the other DIY projects were agreed-upon exceptions to the rule) but I can't wait for next month to roll around so I can get started on that dream dresser.

Tomorrow I'll share an update on The Train Job scarf and detail my preferred weaving in method.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

DIY Success!

Thanks to several friends and a few family members, DH and I were able to move almost everything out of our old apartment and in to the new withing a few hours. We then spent most of the afternoon and evening unpacking, though I took a few hours out to paint a bookshelf and the mirrors mentioned a few days ago.

Boy did everything turn out great! The mirrors are on the back porch drying off after a second round of paint application and the rest of the DIY projects are already in place. The mirrors need another coat of paint, so I don't have any pictures of them yet. Instead I present to you the Salvation Army Bookshelf Transformation!

And this is what it looked like before:

Before painting (and taking photos) we ripped off beveled floor edging from the sides and top of this bad boy, which was a huge step in improving its appearance. This project has given me the confidence to start another big DIY project, though it won't be for a while. I don't want to ruin the surprise so details will have to wait until a later date.

But this beauteous bookshelf is not the only snazzy piece of swag we scored for our new apartment. A couple friends of ours are moving and no longer wanted their kitchen table. Their round, black, well-made kitchen table. For the cost of hauling it away we got the table and both chairs that went with it. I was on cloud 9!

One of these days I'm going to make slip covers for those cushions so we can coordinate them with the seasons or holidays. But for now I am loving my Little Black Table. So cute!

Unfortunately this post is going to have to be fairly short. We're still in the middle of unpacking and work never lets up outside the home. Tomorrow I will have an update on our frames as well as some details on my next piece of furniture DIY.

Until then Blessed Be!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Moving Tips

A good chunk of my childhood memories are of my mom and I moving from one place to another, usually because of job and education opportunities. As a result of this I have become very good at packing when left to my own devices. DH was reluctant to hand me the reins on our move this week because I tend to over-plan things but at the moment he is rather glad that he did. We are now mostly packed, taking half the time and hassle it did when we first started prepping for the move and I didn't even get to employ most of my tactics! To placate the need to be SuperPackingWoman I have decided to share my experience here. Hopefully other people can get as much use out of these tips as I do...

Moving Tips, or, How to Pack and Move Without Losing Your Marbles (and Everything Else)
  1. In the months/ weeks leading up to your "begin packing" date, hold on to newspapers and (clean) grocery bags. These make excellent packing materials and are completely free... which is cheaper than bubble wrap. If you have a beloved valuable however, bubble wrap is always a good bet.
  2. Before you even think of packing a box, take a look around whatever room you are starting in. Throw away unnecessary papers, donate clutter you don't want, and put everything where it is supposed to go. Go through the whole house doing this, focusing on things that are out in the open. The more you pitch the less you have to move and if you don't really like it why burn the energy to move it?
  3. Grab a large duffel bag for each member of your family. Pack at least one week's worth of clothes and other necessities for short-distance moves. For long-distance moves you may want to plan ahead up to three weeks of necessities.
  4. Once the necessities are packed and stowed for later use, begin packing non essentials. Choose one room to begin in and pack books, DVDS, games, knick-knacks, holiday stuff... anything you can live without. Again, start with what is in plain sight. I like to start packing about a month before the move, so I have plenty of time to go through everything.
  5. Now that everything in plain sight is packed (including wall decor!) move on to things that are stuffed in to drawers, cubbies, etc. If you're not going to leave clothes in your dressers, you can pack up the clothes about a week or two before your move, depending on how many necessities you packed in step 3.
  6. This one is BIG: As you pack a box, put a colored sticker on it to mark which room it goes in to. Each room should be a different color. This way when you reach the new house you can just put a sheet of colored paper on the doors to various rooms and everyone will know what goes where.
  7. If you're planning a long-distance move with a company, take photos of all your electronics and valuables. If you really want to be careful catalog exactly how many boxes there are and what is in each box. Get this information signed by a notary of the public and make sure the movers know that you have that information on legal record. I only recommend this because I've had game consoles go missing during cross-country moves and it sucks.
  8. Keep all your food and cooking supplies in easy-access boxes like plastic totes. That way there is no tape cutting when you finally hit the new place. You just pop off the lid and have at it. I would recommend pitching all perishable foods before a long move, however.
  9. Keep a fully stocked first aid kit handy. Include any medication your family uses, whether it is prescription or over the counter, in addition to the usual items found in first aid kits.
  10. Have a binder handy for all the necessary paperwork and information. Rental/ Purchase documents, the manifesto of items being moved, contact information for people who are helping you, medical facilities near both the old and the new location... the info will vary depending on your situation.
I hope this helps make your next move go a little smoother!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Day Dream Believer...

As thoughts of a larger apartment dance in my head, cha cha-ing alongside the image of the new TV we'll be getting at the start of next year, my mind has become preoccupied with thoughts of building our home and filling it with the prefect pieces of furniture. The one piece of furniture that captures my attention more than any other is the all-important dining room table. I dream of a large oval table with subtle Victorian shaping and a dark wood finish, flanked with round-backed chairs upholstered in creams or reds. Yes, that is my dream table.

Unfortunately a large, well made kitchen table is rather expensive and we are (to justify the stereotype) broke newlyweds who also happen to be poor college kids. So to keep the dream alive I've been searching for the table online. Here, for your viewing pleasure, are the current incarnations of my dream table:

Photo courtesy of DecorPad

Photo courtesy of CSN Stores

Photo courtesy of Coleman Furniture

Sunday, July 3, 2011

DIY Framed Mirror Update

As the date of our move comes closer, DH and I are taking a good look at everything we have in our apartment. We like most of what we see, but there are a few things we've decided to improve on. One of those things are a set of four framed mirrors that we received as a wedding gift.

Now, you have to understand that I love mirrors. Growing up in apartments gave me a deep appreciation for the light amplifying property of a well-placed mirror, which is a tactic I plan to use in our apartment. So when I unwrapped our new framed set I was very happy. Until I paid close attention to the frames.
Yes, those are silver and gold Baroque style frames in two different patterns. I've been in houses where these would look absolutely gorgeous but ours is not one of them. My decorating style is best described as Steampunk-Modern and these frames are not quite the right fit... at least not the way they are right now.

Inspired by photos like those below, I've decided to spray paint the frames black. Since the patterns are really quite nice, a color change is all these beauties need to reach their full potential.
Photo courtesy of Country Living
Photo courtesy of Remodelista

Saturday, July 2, 2011

First Meeting of the Local Pagan Study Group...

I am a very religious person in nature and by that I mean that I enjoy spending time involved in religious activities, learning about aspects of my religion, and spending time with people who can intelligently discuss the different points of my faith. As a Pagan, opportunities to do these things in a group setting are few and far between. If I wanted to discuss religion with like-minded people I could contact any one of several friends who share my faith, but I recently decided that I wanted a more cohesive group with which to work.

Thus our local Pagan Study Group was formed.

Employing the "group" feature of Facebook I put together a collection of people who I thought would be interested in exploring our religion further and perhaps learning new skills along the way, such as drumming or candle making. Today was our first meeting.

I am happy to say that, though the turn-out for today was small (the product of late notice on the date of our first meeting), I can sense a lot of interest in this group. People have been contacting me regularly since the Facebook group went up, asking for topics and giving suggestions. Our first few meetings are just going to be meet and greet events so that the group members can all become familiar with one another. Within a few weeks we will start studying a topic or two and move on from there.

So far things have been going better than I expected. There are a lot of people interested in studying topics in detail and it is nice to see that I am not alone in this. Though we're off to a slow start I hope that we can pick up steam soon.

Next Saturday will bring another update on the group and over time I hope to have lots of interesting information to share here on My Spiral Path.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Necessity is the mother of all Invention....

If necessity is the mother of all invention then I have been cooking up delicious little love children all week. Not to say that I'm actually cooking children. Simply put my DH and I are trying to save money by eating at home more often and we're running in to the issue of monotony. DH and I love food, especially new kinds of food or new recipes for old favorites, so when we eat at home we get bored quickly without new recipes to try. I usually turn to, but there are some days when dinner has to come from whatever you have on hand and that can be quite a challenge. Thankfully DH and I keep a fairly well-stocked kitchen and I was recently able to put together several delicious recipes without looking up a recipe or buying a specialty item. Since they all turned out well (as made evident by the lack of leftovers) I thought I would share them here. Most of these recipes are made "to taste" so I don't give exact measurements on most sauces or spices. Experimentation is key. Please also note that I don't claim to make healthy food. These are delicious recipes that can be very heavy on the calories and fats, though not all of them are. If you're watching your weight, please keep that in mind.
Teryaki Beef and Rice
1.5 lbs stew meat or beef tips
1 bottle teryaki sauce (I like La Choy brand)
2 cups dry rice

In a large skillet or wok combine stew meat with as much teryaki sauce as you would like. While the beef cooks, prepare the rice as instructed. We prefer to use a rice cooker, which allows us to make rice without having to watch it closely.

Stir the beef over medium heat until all the meat is cooked well. Serve up the rice into a few bowls and top with meat and sauce from the pan.
Photo Courtesy of Foxxy-Sam of DeviantArt

This dish goes well with a side salad or edamame. I feel that I must point out the picture above is not one of mine. I didn't think to get a picture, but I will not be making that mistake again!

Not-Your-Momma's Green Bean Casserole
*As an explanation of this casserole: I LOVE green bean casserole. There has been more than one Thanksgiving where I ate more than half of the casserole my family put out. Once I moved out on my own I learned to make a damned good one... but it was still just a side dish. Then a coworker brought in her own version of this and I set out to make green bean casserole a main dish.

2 cans french cut green beans
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 small can chopped mushrooms
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cut in to bite sized pieces
1 can french fried onions
Red pepper
Chili Powder
Other spices to taste

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine both cans of green beans, both cans of soup, the can of mushrooms, the cut chicken, and fried onions to taste (keep some aside for topping). Add any spices you want to taste. Because the casserole itself has some very basic and mellow flavors, spices stand out and make for a unique casserole if you use them correctly. DH loves the kick red pepper adds and I like the taste of chili powder.

Spread the mixture in a casserole dish and place in heated oven for 20-25 minutes. Pull out and top with more fried onions, then put back in the oven for five minutes.

Because of the chicken and mushrooms this makes an excellent main dish. Pair with a light salad or veggie spread to up the nutritional value.

Cheesy Tuna Casserole (And we mean Cheesy)
1 can white chunk tuna, preferably dolphin-safe
2 cups bow tie, radiatore, egg noodle, or rotini pasta; cooked and drained (I prefer bow tie pasta)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 bag shredded cheddar cheese
1 bag shredded Monterrey jack cheese
1 container shredded Parmesan cheese (we use the really good stuff... I'm a Parmesan snob most of the time)
1 can french fried onions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

In a large mixing bowl combine cooked and drained pasta with the can of tuna, the can of soup, and your preferred amount of cheddar, Monterrey jack, and Parmesan cheese. Keep some Parmesan cheese aside for topping. Spread mixture in to casserole dish and bake in heated oven for 15-20 minutes or until warm throughout. Remove the dish from the oven and top with friend onions and more Parmesan cheese. Bake for another five minutes.

We love our salads, so you can guess what I suggest serving this with...

I hope your friends and family enjoy these recipes as much as we do. We eat them so often that I don't even have to look at the recipe card any more, and with our varied diet that is saying something!
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